NOT GUILTY!!! was the verdict for Kevin and Maiga, Mumia supporters who were tried for allegedly posting fliers on utility poles using nails. The fliers were for an upcoming book signing party for Mumia’s book, Jailhouse Lawyers.
The charges read that the defendants were hammering nails into metal poles, on South Street in Philadelphia, a popular commercial street where posting placards and distributing fliers are business as usual and regularly accepted by merchants and authorities.
Kevin and Maiga, the defendants, poised and professional, responded to the charge by pleading not guilty and stated that in no way were they, or anyone else who was distributing fliers, hammering them into poles using nails, as reiterated in the courtroom by the arresting officer, identified as officer Gresso.
In fact, Kevin made it clear that neither of them were in possession of nails or a device for “hammering.” Kevin did state that he was carrying a stapler, in a plastic bag, at the time he was arrested. The stapler, he stated, was used to affix fliers to approved bulletin boards on local college campuses, where they had recently been, just before their arrest on South Street.
The Police Officer stated that he was responding to complaints against the group for “forcefully” handing out the fliers. The officer even went so far as to ridiculously say that Kevin and Maiga were “forcing the fliers onto people who didn’t even want to take them.” To which Maiga rightfully and instantly fired back, “That’s a lie!”
The block where Kevin and Maiga were distributing is on the same block as a police precinct annex. From the courtroom discussion it was evident that the officer did not receive complaints as stated, but rather observed the pair himself and identified them as hanging material related to Mumia Abu-Jamal.
A witness to the arrest, and a friend of Kevin and Maiga, stated that the pair had their backs to the police officer when he rushed them with a partner and immediately handcuffed the two. A seemingly harsh approach for simply hanging fliers and thus stated by Maiga.
The Judge, however, showed indifference to the forceful manner in which the officer conducted himself and replied to Maiga’s claim of excessive force as, “Yeah, well that’s what police officers do when they arrest people.”
Maiga and Kevin displayed continued calmness despite the judge’s obvious attempts to cause them to become indignant.
Time again, the judge refused to let them expound on their answers and instead raved on several times about how she had represented a first amendment case to the Supreme Court and won. At one point, Maiga had referred to the officer solely by his last name, when the judge again lashed out, “He’s a police officer. You address him as officer Gresso, not by his last name. He commands respect as do I, “and then went on to talk about her Supreme Court victory.
I must admit, at that time, Ramona Africa and I, both seated in the rear of the courtroom, exchanged glances as both of us had to roll our eyes and shake our heads in bewilderment.
Like most judges, she was not shy about praising herself. At one point, Maiga indicated that the flier was for a book-signing “for a political prisoner.”
“Alleged…politica l prisoner,” said the judge. To which she boisterously added,” I’m not here to retry Mumia!” Again, Ramona rolled her eyes and sighed.
As the courtroom farce was coming to its end, the judge pressed upon Kevin and Maiga the fact that hanging any type of literature was illegal. Maiga responded that at the time she wasn’t aware of the law because of the commonality of flier posting.
In an abrupt but welcomed response the judge replied, “Well now you do! Not Guilty!”
Stoically, and somewhat stunned at the decision, the defendants and those supporters who accompanied them, rose and quietly filed out of the courtroom. Even as we gathered outside in the hall, no sudden words were spoken.
To Pam and Ramona Africa this was sadly, another par for the course in their fight to free their friend and brother in struggle from a racist system. Battle hardened by this point, they didn’t flinch. And both Kevin and Maiga were inspiring and graceful under the continued, condescending attacks from the court.
I believe it wasn’t until we all walked by the metal detector and out of the door of the building that we first truly emoted about the decision and the fact that this senseless hearing was now finished.
The two defendants, Pam, Ramona, other friends and family members and I, gave each other congratulatory hugs and acknowledged it as a victory. We seemed to agree with the notion that the judge was under pressure not to turn this into something bigger than it was.
Before the hearing, as we all patiently waited for the defendants to be called, we could observe, through the open door, the judge in action. Ramona stated to me something very profound, as you would expect from someone who has been through so much in the way of being dragged through the system.
She told me that she had gone to college and contemplated law school. She explained that probably like many people, she thought that by becoming a lawyer, that she could do some good and help people, especially those in the African American community. But also like many people who take that conscious step to “enter the system,” she realized that along the way, she may have changed.
Had she gone through with her plans, “I might have been just like her.” She said, pointing to the judge as she spoke.
“You see, the system will change you. You may have good intentions, but it is set up in such a way that in order to remain in it, you have to change”
We talked about President Obama and how so many people believe in his promise of change and how they hang their hopes on his presidency.
We spoke of the upcoming race for the Philadelphia District Attorney and how the African American Democratic candidate has already stated that he is ready to execute Mumia. A promise he must make in order to be accepted by the ruling class which he will serve.
People like Kevin and Maiga, Ramona and Pam; spend their life continually fighting the system to try to bring about change. We cannot depend on a politician or “savior” as Ramona put it, to bring change to us.
Ramona’s revelation of how, even her life, may have taken a different course had she joined the system, and witnessing the bullying by the police and court that day, bring to mind a quote that John Leslie, from the Philadelphia branch of Socialist Action, has been suffixing to his emails. It states:
“The fact that the police was originally recruited in large numbers from among Social Democratic workers is absolutely meaningless. Consciousness is determined by environment even in this instance. The worker, who becomes a policeman in the service of the capitalist state, is a bourgeois cop, not a worker.”
The courts and the police were established to protect the system. We can choose to be part of that system and will probably find that it may serve us well.
There will, however always be those people, that the system forgets. That’s the nature of the system, the nature of capitalism, designed to serve only those who wish to rule.
As activists and revolutionaries, we stand in solidarity with those who are neglected and subjected to discrimination and oppression. It is a conscious decision that we have made at some point in our lives, for whatever the reason.
Che Guevara once answered this question as to why one becomes a revolutionary… “Well, we will leave that to the psychoanalysts.”
Onward to victory!
Submitted by a concerned friend from Socialist Action, Philadelphia